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Prosecution authorities urged to investigate human rights abuse claims against firm awarded Scottish census contract

Source: The Firm Magazine

An £18.5 million contract to help process the 2011 Scottish census has been awarded to CACI Ltd, an international corporation headquartered in Arlington, Virginia and with offices in the UK, who also provided "interrogation support" in Iraq, most infamously in Abu Ghraib.

A dossier summarising the firm’s record has been passed to Lothian and Borders Police, who in turn are sufficiently convinced that there is a prima facie case to prosecute the company in Scotland that they have passed it to Edinburgh's Procurator Fiscal, who is now presently investigating whether potential crimes committed by a foreign corporation overseas should be brought before a Scottish court. Such a criminal action would be unprecedented.

Since the contract was awarded the matter has been brought to the attention of Scottish politicians, and some seem less than happy that CACI have been awarded the Scottish census. In October of 2008 John Swinney wrote "We would never be a party to a contract with any company convicted of human rights abuses". Although CACI have been investigated by the US army and are presently subject to civil actions raised by the Centre for Constitutional Rights, no such conviction has been secured. If a case was tried in Scotland, CACI’s role in the Scottish census would be in question.

Scotland Against Criminalising Communities says it is “completely unacceptable that Scottish taxpayers are being asked to support a company that has been involved in shameful human rights abuses and is trying to use its status as a military contractor to duck accountability in US courts.” When news of the contract broke last year, solicitor advocate John Scott said: "The Scottish government, and any government with a principled stance, should not be going near any firm with such associations, even indirectly. The government is opening itself up to significant and justified protest,"

"Ordinary members of the public could refuse to have anything to do with the census. A boycott is something to be considered. It would be a legitimate step. We cannot ignore our principles."

Human rights specialist Aamer Anwar agreed, stating that the Scottish government was elected on a mandate that it had a human rights conscience.

“Now it seems the Scottish government is already closing its eyes to what is going on overseas. Would we say it was OK if a firm connected to Mugabe was hired to run our census? It is unacceptable that they have been hired. This will horrify most ordinary people It is unacceptable that the Scottish government should be selling its soul to an organisation accused of torturing human beings."

"The US government doesn't give a damn about people's rights, it'll gather data in any way possible. How can we be sure that the census information will not be handed over to the US government in the interests of homeland security?"

CACI’s alleged conduct in Iraq, if proven, breaches the 3rd and 4th Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention on Torture both of which convey the right of Universal Jurisdiction to any court in any country to prosecute war crimes. The Geneva Conventions introduced the concept of 'Universal Jurisdiction' into international law, and into the legal system of the signatory states which include the US and the UK. According to Professor Robert Black, the Scottish judiciary have the legal right to prosecute breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is also incorporated into UK law, and it also provides universal jurisdiction for such crimes. Conducting the Scottish Census may also be sufficient to found jurisdiction. It is untried legal territory, but the legal door is potentially open, should the Crown Office and Scottish Government elect to walk through it.

In addition to fears expressed by Aamer Anwar that the information could be passed and used to US intelligence services, as part of the Scottish Census contract census researchers will now be asking the religious persuasion of everyone in Scotland. Scottish politicians claim to be powerless to prevent this, citing EU legislation that requires a conviction to disbar a bidder.

CACI’s work in Iraq consisted of two contracts, one for $19.9 million for "interrogation support" and another for $21.8 million for "human intelligence support", providing twenty seven contractors to work in detention centres in Iraq, many at Abu Ghraib. Despite claims that CACI employees committed serious war-crimes, including torture, and the US Army 'Fay Report' recommending prosecution of contractors, the US Attorney General refused to prosecute the company, effectively granting them immunity in the US and in Iraq for conduct that appears to breach the third and fourth Geneva Conventions.

The US army investigation specifically recommended prosecution of at least one CACI employee. A DA Inspector General Investigation shows 35% of the CACI contract interrogators lacked formal military training as interrogators. None of the contractors or their employers have yet faced criminal prosecution when twelve soldiers were successfully prosecuted for such crimes.

CACI have been awarded lucrative contracts from both the US and UK governments. CACI have sensitive NHS contracts in England and Wales as well as the census in Scotland. Civil actions in the US are being brought against them by the Centre for Constitutional Rights. They have gathered witness testimony from Iraqi victims who they now represent against CACI and CACI employees. Lead counsel Susan Burke told The Firm that the alleged abuse uncovered in her investigations may come to light under the Obama administration.

“The Senate Armed Services committee of Congress just released a lengthy paper describing all the high-level officials who participated in the conspiracy to torture. The report also identifies many officials who refused to participate in the conspiracy, and instead tried unsuccessfully to stop it,” she said.

“The report makes clear that under Bush, top lawyers at the Department of Justice were key participants in the conspiracy. Now, we anticipate the department will return to it's true function, and begin to investigate those who broke United States and international law. We have confidence in our new Attorney General Eric Holder, a man of integrity and character.”

Burke says her clients' depositions describe abuse that would justify charges of war-crimes, torture, assault, rape and many others that would constitute breaches of the 3rd and 4th Geneva Conventions.

“The corporations were well aware of, and encouraged their employees' bad acts,” she said.

“The corporations took no steps to properly train their employees to abide by the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions. The corporations failed to ensure compliance with law.”

CACI itself are aware of the furore caused by their involvement in Iraq, and have published a book, “Our Good Name: The Book That Sets the Record Straight About CACI's Work at Abu Ghraib” On its own website, it publishes a denial of any wrongdoing: “No CACI employee or former employee has ever been indicted for any misconduct in connection with CACI's work in Iraq,” it says.. “While three former employees have been cited in various reports in connection with disputed incidents in Iraq, no CACI employee took part or appears in any of the horrific photos released from Abu Ghraib.” The Firm contacted CACI directly but they declined to comment on the prospect of a prosecution being raised in Scotland.

The Scottish Government is unable to disbar CACI without a criminal conviction. The Crown Office in Edinburgh has so far declined to comment to The Firm. If the Crown Office concludes that it lacks the necessary locus to proceed, the case could be referred up to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

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